The Wilderness Academy Days brought together various Wilderness Advocates to connect their ideas and practices on the efforts of reaching out to a broad audience. Speakers shared their experiences on the channels they use to get the Wilderness message across, be it raising awareness, increasing knowledge or providing Wilderness experiences.
The meaning of Wilderness in Austrian National Parks
The Austrian National Parks Kalkalpen and Gesäuse put great emphasis on educating people about Wilderness. They are also continuously part of the very successful Let’s get wild II project. This is an Austrian “Outdoor classroom” project of the European Wilderness Society that aims to raise children’s interest in nature, working together with Austria’s national parks.
Angelika Stückler from Kalkalpen National Park shared her experiences on how can a National Park that has already 156 km2 of Wilderness embedded, protect Wilderness as well as create a Wilderness-positive visitor management plan. Martin Hartmann from Gesäuse National Park spoke about the fact that the heart of evoking ethusiasm for Wilderness lies not just in the available visitor programs, but more so in building up a motivated ranger network. Both National Parks have a multitudinal approach towards visitors. They provide regular exhibitions, thematic trails, Wilderness trails, bivouac sites and cycling paths. They have also built up a strong educational approach constisting of guided tours into various habitats, the possibility to join researchers in their everyday tasks and thematic nature activites for school children.
It was a huge pleasure to welcome three Youth Wilderness Ambassadors of WWF Generation Earth. Gudrun Bruckner, Judith Kapeller and Nina Moser represented a big network of young people who, under the umbrella of WWF, aim to inspire, educate and involve youth in taking action for our environment. They presented how clever Wilderness protection and education can bring Wilderness closer to the young generation. Apart from strengthening leadership skills, each member can take on an individual nature protection project.
The road to transnational cooperations
Transnational projects are great tools for building networks beyond borders. Two Interreg CENTRAL EUROPE projects, focusing on improving integrated environmental management capacities of protected areas, were introduced as exemplary approaches on successful transboundary cooperation. Hanna Öllös and Nick Huisman presented the projects Centralparks and BEECH POWER that bring together various European partner organisations in cooperation. The focus areas of the projects are the Carpathians and the World Heritage Beech Forests. Through project activities in the next 3 years, these partnerships will jointly work to empower local and regional management through transnational cooperation.
Successful Wilderness Outreach
The last presentation of the session was focusing on the best-practice examples of the European Wilderness Society on how to achieve change in people in their approach to Wilderness through effective communication. Max Rossberg, chairman of the European Wilderness Society presented impressive figures on the journey of this organisation from the beginning to its peak until today. As he emphasised, the key to achieving a steady growth in the follower base is to provide valuable and trustworthy information, pay attention to the readers and always aim for a two-way communication.